Malaysia’s Federal Reserve Bank (Bank Negara) says hawala money transfer will soon become the country’s largest illegal trade, larger than drugs, wildlife smuggling or any other criminal activity. An official claimed in this article that the amount transferred in and out of Malaysia this way reached hundreds of millions of ringgit annually and possibly as high as RM1 billion (US$325 million).

Hawala is a form of remittance or international money transfer that operates separate to the official financial system, using an honor system of promises and payments between brokers that bypasses official exchange rates, taxes and other financial regulations. No actual instruments ever change hands or cross borders in the transaction. The practice is illegal in Malaysia but remains either legal or even essential in some parts of the world, usually serving workers abroad who wish to transfer their money home to countries with underdeveloped or inefficient transfer mechanisms. It is, however, also accused by some governments of being a vehicle for money laundering and financing of other illegal activities, leading to bans on brokers in many countries and some US states.

Malaysia has revoked the licenses of over 41 official money changers but the hawala industry continues to grow in popularity at all levels of society. Senior politicians and businesspeople are alleged to have used hawala brokers to transfer tens of millions of ringgit around the world in the past few years.

source & article: Economic Times (India)